MAY LOOK LIKE PLUTOCRAT BIAS: Halloween monsters stood on the stage!


Part 2—The GOP's "crazy" proposals:
This evening, the Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal will stage and air another Republican debate.

The last debate was staged by CNBC. The debate took place on October 28. Halloween was three days away, and that seemed weirdly appropriate!

Monsters and giants stood on the stage, confronting three to six moderators. We refer to the GOP budget proposals, which Candidate Kasich had assailed as "crazy" just one day before.

What made those budget proposals seem monstrous, ghostly, gigantic or "crazy?" Let's offer a quick review:

On September 28, the front-running candidate, Candidate Trump, had released his budget proposal. In his October 2 column, Paul Krugman surveyed the damage.

According to Krugman, Trump's proposal would "lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit. This is in contrast to Jeb Bush's plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio's plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit."

According to Krugman, "it looks as if Trump's plan would make an even bigger hole in the budget than Jeb's. Jeb justifies his plan by claiming that it would double America's rate of growth; The Donald, ahem, trumps this by claiming that he would triple the rate of growth."

"[W]hy sweat the details?" Krugman wrote next. "It's all voodoo," he said.

On October 28, that voodoo stood on that debate stage, along with those giant tax cuts. Five days earlier, Krugman had again described the tax cut proposals, which carried a Halloween flair.

On Halloween, homeowners give free candy to kids! In his review of those tax proposals, Krugman saw similar conduct at work:

"All of the candidates are proposing to hand out 'free stuff'—unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy—on a truly impressive scale," he wrote. "The average budget cost is $6 trillion over the next decade; as it happens, Marco Rubio, who seems to be the most likely survivor of the demolition derby, comes in slightly above that average, at $6.5 trillion."

Question: Is $6 trillion in tax cuts over ten years a lot or just a little? Absent explanations from experts, most citizens have no real way of knowing.

We'll only say this. By way of contrast, Candidate Bush proposed either $1.3 trillion or $1.6 trillion in tax cuts over ten years back in Campaign 2000. And he did that at a time of large surplus projections.

(In November 2000, the CBO and the OMB were projecting $4.6 trillion in federal surpluses over the next ten years.)

Even adjusting for inflation, these tax cut proposals are much larger than Bush's tax cuts, even though Krugman slightly misstated the size of Rubio's proposal. And these proposals are being made at a time of projected deficits.

At any rate, Krugman linked to a post by Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center. Gleckman had presented the numbers shown below. These numbers are based on assessments by the Tax Foundation, a business-friendly, conservative-leaning organization.

Below, you see the general state of play at that pre-Halloween debate. This remains the state of play at this evening's battle:
GLECKMAN (10/20/15): The numbers are eye-popping. The six GOP candidates whose plans have been analyzed by the Tax Foundation have proposed an average of $6.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade. Here is the foundation’s list and the size of the proposed tax cuts (before considering effects on economic growth): Rand Paul: nearly $3 trillion; Rick Santorum: $3.2 trillion; Jeb Bush: $3.7 trillion; Marco Rubio: $6.1 trillion; Bobby Jindal $11.3 trillion; Donald Trump: almost $12 trillion...

These promises are almost always accompanied by pledges to balance the budget. How will the candidates make the math work? They don’t ever say. While pols gleefully describe their tax cuts in great detail, most go silent when it comes to exactly how they’d pay for it all. Rarely do they get beyond gauzy promises to cut waste or close tax “loopholes."

For context, to pay for Trump’s tax cuts without adding to the $18 trillion national debt, Congress would need to slash planned spending by one-quarter over the next decade...This wouldn’t reduce the current debt by a dime. It would just pay for his proposed tax cuts.
Among the currently plausible candidates, Trump's tax cuts are especially giant. Candidate Carson still hasn't presented a plan which is detailed enough to be assessed in this way, but his general presentation suggests that he would massively shift the burden of federal taxation away from the top ten percent and onto the lower half of earners.

In that pre-Halloween debate, at least two giants stood on the stage; we refer to the tax cuts proposed by Rubio and Trump. Shape-shifting witches were on the stage too. We refer to the ways these leading contenders had been evading questions about the way they would balance the budget while cutting taxes in such remarkable ways.

Several proposals were dressed as clowns; we refer to the historically ludicrous growth rates the hopefuls said their plans would produce (see Krugman's original column). Apparitions were on the stage as well. We refer to the giant federal spending cuts which seemed to disappear whenever candidates were asked to name them, which wasn't especially often.

The scene was set for that pre-Halloween debate—a debate which was staged by CNBC, a business/economics channel.

Those budget proposals were "crazy," Candidate Kasich had said. He referred to the tax cuts, which were giant; to the spending cuts, which were invisible; to the projected growth rates, which were clownish; and to the loopholes the candidates said they would dump, which kept disappearing under questioning in a type of voodoo.

Kasich might have referred to the distributional effects of these tax plans too, in which millionaires and billionaires would see their tax bills massively slashed. In that respect, the candidates who stood on that stage were dressed as Robin Hoods, though in reverse.

We've now described the situation which obtained at that pre-Halloween debate. You'd think three moderators from a business/economics channel would have a million questions to ask about a group of budget plans which seemed as "monstrous" as these did.

In theory, the task those moderators faced had been made much simpler by Kasich. The proposals are "crazy," the Ohio governor and presidential contender had said. In theory, this relieved the moderators of the task of supplying rhetoric appropriate to the situation.

You'd think those moderators would have had a million questions about those "crazy" tax plans! You'd think they would have asked the candidates a million questions about the ghosts and goblins which seemed to inhabit their proposals—about the size of the cuts; about the size of those projected growth rates; about the disappearing act their budget and loophole cuts kept playing.

In fact, nothing even dimly like that occurred at the CNBC debate. At the start of the evening, the channel's TV stars devoted exactly three prepared questions to the "crazy" tax proposals—and at that point, they wandered off into the woods.

They spent the remainder of the two hours asking an array of scattershot, grab-bag questions about every conceivable topic. They displayed an enormous amount of snark, a tiny amount of focus.

Tomorrow, we'll run through the sequence of questions the moderators asked. Tonight, you'll be able to see if the Fox Business News stars are able to focus more sharply.

For today, we'll only say this. The "crazy" proposals which went unchallenged would produce a massive increase in wealth for the nation's billionaires.

When overpaid stars from a corporate news org can't seem to focus on such matters, a cynic may think their conduct may have the look of an old demon, plutocrat bias.

It's hard to say that perception is wrong concerning that famous old being, which prefers to hide in shadows and snark and go through life unnoticed.

Tomorrow: Minute by minute with Harwood, Quintanilla and Quick


  1. "Tomorrow: Minute by minute with Harwood, Quintanilla and Quick"


    1. Bob plans to be as thorough in his coverage of this two week old event as he was with PBS coverage of the Iowa State Fair, which he chose to feature rather than the August 6 debate on FOX.

  2. That old demon "plutocrat bias" is a nasty fellow. Thank heavens he never appeared on the sprawling campus of Howler U. before November 5, 2015 or the poor analysts might have been frightened away.

  3. Technical note: Bob says that when comparing Bush's tax cut with the current proposals, one should adjust for inflation. Actually, one should adjust for a combination of population growth, inflation, and economic expansion. Alternatively, one could adjust using GNP or using amount of income tax collected.

    That adjustment would be around a factor of 2. The current Republican proposals around 4 times as large as Bush's. So, Bob's general point is correct: the current proposals are much larger than Bush's.

    1. So, Bob's general point is correct: my party is batshit insane.


  4. The last I heard, the economy was slowing down, becoming sluggish. All of the proposed budget plans assume that lowering taxes on the rich would stimulate economic growth. However, the amount of growth is pulled from thin air because there are no studies suggesting that any growth would occur, much less the astronomical rates essential to these plans. Republicans pretend that their assumption that lowering taxes stimulates the economy has never been tested. That is untrue. There have been analyses of the growth produced by tax relief and none of them justify these assumptions at the heart of all of the Republican tax plans. So, it isn't just the amount of the cuts that is problematic but the assumptions about growth of our economy.

    Debate moderators need to not only challenge the cuts but also the growth rates projected by the candidates. When they only challenge the cuts, the candidates turn around and state that the growth will make up the deficit. THAT factually incorrect statement needs to be challenged too.

    1. OK, so the questioning session goes like this:

      MODERATOR: Your tax plan will blow a huge hole in the deficit.

      CANDIDATE: No it won't. Growth will make up for it.

      MODERATOR: Never happened in 30 of trying without blowing a hole in the deficit.

      CANDIDATE: Yes it has.

      MODERATOR: No it hasn't.

      CANDIDATE: You're a liberal! And you're biased!

      SOMERBY: Look how hapless that moderator was!

      DAVE IN CAL: Three cheers for Candidate! He sure did put that liberal moderator in his place!

    2. Not bad Anonymous @ 12:37, except we all keep ignoring a few fairly pertinent things.

      These are not "debates."

      The Bob/Corby view projects the moderator to play the role of Inquisitor/Rebutter.

      But other than that, and the minor fact that the candidates are addressing an audience that believes the current President is a Kenyan born Muslim trying to take away their guns, Somerby and Corby are making a logical proposal.

    3. Inquisitor -- just like 1984 Newspeak.

      I agree these aren't debates. They aren't candidate forums either or beauty pageants. Why shouldn't a well-prepared moderator attempt to get a candidate to clarify an answer or ask the follow-ons the public would want to know? Why shouldn't they function as competent journalists?

      Maybe the audience wouldn't believe stupid stuff if the moderators did a better job.

    4. "Maybe the audience wouldn't believe stupid stuff if the moderators did a better job."


      Also, maybe the general public wouldn't believe so much stupid stuff if journalists did a better job.

      "That's absurd, leave our wonderful journalists alone, you mean old Somerby," retort the trolls.

    5. Yes, it is very comforting to think that complex problems have simple explanations.

      Like that stupid "general public" believes "stupid stuff" because journalist aren't doing a good job.

      In the Information Age. When there have never been as many voices available as there are today.

      And it is hilarious to read a blogger -- one of those voices who couldn't be heard at all -- yearn for the good ol' days of a handful of "gatekeepers" controlling what voices we read and hear.

      Good ol' days, in fact, that never really existed.

    6. Although there may not be simple ways to solve complex problems, there are simple ways to make complex problems worse. E.g., invading Iraq or overthrowing the government of Libya or throwing additional troops into Afghanistan. There are also complex ways of making a complex situation worse, such as enacting a poorly designed health care system. Also, there are complex, expensive ways of doing little or no good, such as the US and UN approach to mitigating CO2 emissions by an amount that will have only a negligible impact on global warming.

      I do not expect the government to solve complex problems. I will vote for the candidate who I hope will make fewer problems worse.

  5. You'd think, with over two weeks to review it, Bob Somerby would realize Governor Kasich wasn't referring to budget plans when he called the election "crazy."

    That said, if you had to rate this statment by Bob Somerby as true or false, you'd have to say it was mostly false:

    "Those budget proposals were "crazy," Candidate Kasich had said. He referred to the tax cuts, which were giant; to the spending cuts, which were invisible; to the projected growth rates, which were clownish; and to the loopholes the candidates said they would dump, which kept disappearing under questioning in a type of voodoo.

    Kasich might have referred to the distributional effects of these tax plans too, in which millionaires and billionaires would see their tax bills massively slashed.

    Kasich called the election "crazy". He called the proposal to abolish Medicaid and Medicare "crazy". He called the plan to deport 10-11 million people "crazy."

    He did NOT call any budget proposal crazy. He did NOT refer to spending cuts, growth rates, or loopholes.

    And not only did he NOT refer to distributional effects of taxes, he only referred to one tax plan, a 10% flat rate.

    We'd have to say Somerby is either a novelist into Magic Realism or has so many loose screws and wires that they may never have been installed in the first place.

    Tomorrow: Point by Point raised by Kasich and how moderators addressed them in debate.

  6. From the Politico story cited:

    "Kasich went on, saying, "We got one person saying we ought to have a 10 percent flat tax that will drive up the deficit in this country by trillions of dollars" and there's another challenger in the field who "says we ought to take 10 or 11 [million] people and pick them up — I don't know where we're going to go, their homes, their apartments — we're going to pick them up and scream at them to get out of our country. That's crazy. That is just crazy."

    Sounds to me like he is referring to tax cuts and budget proposals. That he only mentions one as a specific example of his general complaint about conservatives (note the title of the piece) does not exclude the others with similarly messed up plans. The growth rates and loopholes and spending cuts are part of the whole package being proposed by this year's candidates. Someone who wholesale calls them crazy (referring to "conservatives" is implicitly referring to these, even if not explicitly listing them one by one, as Kasich actually did with respect to the 10% tax cute and consequent trillions in deficit.

    Excessively literal again. Any reason you aren't following CMike's suggestion to use a nym? We all know who you are anyway.

    1. "Human" demonstrates all the qualities of the audience which cheered Ted Cruz. The lazy liberal tribalist described by Bob Somerby based on his experience with his own readership.

      Corby, on the other hand, has proven he will not only fall for Somerby's tales, he has the energy to further them.

    2. My guess is Corby read the article instead of watching the tape of the remarks at the top. Politico did a better job of paraphrasing Kasich than Somerby did of novelizing his remarks, but the link takes your to a video clip of the actual remarks coming straight out of the candidates mouth.

      It is a pity the troll spotters (spouters?) Somerby is left with as readers are willing to engage in vulgar accusations without checking material that can be verified.